By Skyler Lee
Abortion activists may claim "my body, my choice," yet abortion affects family members, too. Post-abortive siblings are an often overlooked affected party in the matter. In fact, almost 61 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade was legalized, leading to an estimated 50% of all Americans having lost a brother or sister to abortion. The prevalence of post-abortive siblings is also echoed in other research.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Fifty-nine percent of abortions in 2014 were obtained by patients who had had at least one birth.” Additionally, according to another Guttmacher Institute survey, “Nearly four in 10 women said they had completed their childbearing, and almost one-third were not ready to have a child” and “younger women often reported that they were unprepared for the transition to motherhood, while older women regularly cited their responsibility to dependents.”
In other words, many women are either having abortions to postpone motherhood or because they already have children and can’t afford or do not want another. This means millions of women are having abortions during their first pregnancy without considering the consequences for their future children, or aborting their born children's younger siblings without their knowledge or consent.
- Not knowing their sibling was aborted and simply feeling like there’s something missing
- Looking down on or resenting their parents
- Feeling the need to justify their parents’ decision
- Repeating the same mistake
- Experiencing discounted or overlooked grief
- Survivor’s guilt or questioning why their life was worth more than their sibling(s)
- Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS)
Some post-abortive siblings also feel the need to engage in the pro-life movement. In fact, many pregnancy centers are now staffed with post-abortive siblings. Since many feel they are unable to discuss their feelings with their parents, they find peace in helping other abortion-vulnerable women with physical, emotional, and spiritual support to choose life, according to Ramah International.
But don't just take my word for it. Here are the powerful personal testimonies of four post-abortive siblings: Penelope, Leah, Sarah, and Chloe.
How did you find out your sibling was aborted?
Penelope: I found out about it when I was 16. I saw my mother sitting on the last few steps of our main-floor staircase. I kept asking her why she was sobbing, because it was to an extent with a tone of such hopelessness and relentlessness that I had not seen my mother ever exhibit prior. She repeatedly said, "I did something horrible but I can't tell you because you'll hate me." She finally told me, and I simply didn't know how to react, so I did what was a reflex for me — comforted her —however, I soon realized that wasn't nearly enough.
Leah: I was around 8 when it happened. I was sitting next to my dad when he received the call from his then ex-girlfriend. They had broken up and didn’t foresee any reconciliation. All I heard was “Well, I don’t want it.” It. Like it was a thing or choice; I would later find out that’s how he spoke of my sibling. The woman was young, in college, alone, and didn’t want her parents to know. Trust me, it would be easier to lay all of the blame on a woman I barely knew than my own father and they were both at fault, but I blamed him more. He was older, supposed to be mature and already had a kid, so he should have known the precious value of life. She was looking for reassurance, and instead of stepping up, he stepped out. She killed my sibling. I still to this day don’t know how far along she was or if it was my brother or sister. The crazy thing is they would later end up married, had another daughter and got divorced. It will always feel like a giant what-if.
Sarah: I found out when my mom told me out of the blue sometime in either late middle school or early high school. While we were out to dinner just us, and she suddenly said she had something she wanted to tell me that she's never told anyone before except my dad but strangely it felt like she needed to tell me right then. She explained she had an abortion in her early twenties before she had met and married my dad. Before this time, I knew a little bit about how she had dated a guy who she said was just a dumb jerk on and off for a few years before eventually breaking up for good, but of course the abortion was new information to me. I'm not sure if I knew what an abortion was at the time, and I vaguely remember her briefly explaining it to me. My mom told me how it was around the time when her dad passed away (her mom died when my mom was only 16), and she had just ended the relationship for good with her old boyfriend. My mom said that when she found out, she was just overwhelmed and didn't feel like she could take care of a child with all the other circumstances in her life. She knew abortion was wrong, but she felt helpless and went ahead with one anyway. I'll never forget that she told me when she saw the doctor who would perform the abortion, all she could feel from him was just pure evil. She said she mostly felt mentally absent during the whole process and didn't feel complete regret until afterwards.
Chloe: I was 12 years old when I found out about my mother’s abortion. I was going through some old photos, and I came across a stack of ultrasounds. I was ecstatic to be looking at my sister and I, however, as I looked at when they were taken, I realized the dates on the ultrasound didn’t line up with the birthdays of the two children she has. For a while, I just assumed that she had a miscarriage and never shared it with us, so I kept my findings to myself and hid the ultrasound for safekeeping as a way to remember my sibling. When I finally built up the courage to ask her about it, she told me she had an abortion, and that the doctor thought she was pregnant with twins or triplets (a dream of mine later verified that she was pregnant with a boy and a girl).
Has your parent changed their mind since then?
Penelope: Yes, she is to the point where she believes jail time should be implemented for women who abort, even accounting for herself.
Leah: My dad has foolishly stood by his decision. I’ve never brought it up to the woman, but from what I’ve heard, she regrets it. I don’t think she’d ever do it again and she’s always been supportive of my pro-life activism.
Sarah: Since then, it was a long journey for my mom to completely cope and find forgiveness. When she was young and not long after the abortion, she had gone to a "general absolution" reconciliation service at a Catholic church in the hopes of receiving forgiveness and absolution for the abortion. However, abortion is a mortal sin according to the Church and should be confessed one-on-one with a priest. I think she was just too ashamed to speak about it to anyone. When she married my dad a few years later, they had a number of fertility problems and struggled to conceive a child for many years. This, I actually knew prior to the story of her abortion. She told me, though, that she had started to think at the time that they struggled because of her past abortion and that God was punishing her for it. While she only briefly thought that because of the grief (she didn't believe that anymore soon after), I think it shows just how much she carried her guilt and grief. She became pregnant one more time before me, but sadly miscarried (another sibling I didn't get to meet). She had completely given up just before my parents found out they were pregnant with me (yay!). Fast forward to a few years ago (sometime in between when she first told me about the abortion and the present day), we went to a Catholic reconciliation service like many we had gone to before either in Advent or Lent. My mom felt she needed to confess her deep regret and grief of her abortion to know in her heart once and for all that God loves her and has forgiven her (and that she can forgive herself). I'll never forget her joy through her tears and her telling me about it, and she was so much at peace. Around that same time period is when I actually became more interested in pro-life activism, and she became very interested and passionate about it as well. My mom had a long health battle after major heart surgery and a number of other complications along the way over the course of a year and a half, but she had been looking forward to participating in 40 Days for Life and volunteering at pro-life pregnancy resource centers once she was well enough to come home. She passed away in May of this year, but I am certain she will be/has been joyously reunited with my two older siblings along with my dad.
Chloe: Thankfully, yes! My mother used to be pro-abortion, but when I began my work in the pro-life movement I was able to educate her about the barbarity and manipulation of the abortion industry. She uses her pain from her abortion to help others through theirs. However, my father is still pro-abortion and does not believe preborn children possess any rights, despite my great efforts to reveal the humanity of preborn children to him.
How has being a post-abortive sibling impacted your life?
Penelope: It steered my passions away from minuscule things to dedicating a hefty portion of my life to fighting for women and preborn children. I'm the President of my Students for Life chapter, have participated in national fellowships, have organized rallies and canvassing groups, have protested outside of Planned Parenthoods and the Supreme Court, and volunteer weekly at local crisis pregnancy centers.
Leah: I felt a call on my life to be as active in the pro-life movement as possible. It led me to be a better big sister, knowing how I was robbed of that opportunity previously. It brought me to help lead my on-campus pro-life group, volunteer at pregnancy centers, and so much more. The pro-life movement along with my faith has provided a healing of sorts. Loving women and other families who are facing crisis pregnancies or may be abortion-vulnerable allows me to love my sibling I never got a chance to meet. It’s a personal thing for me and every minute I spend fighting to end abortion is a minute I spend honoring my sibling.
Sarah: While I believe I would have been pro-life regardless of my mom’s personal story, being a post-abortive sibling has definitely given me more cause to advocate for women like my mom who felt like abortion was their only option. Abortion is never the only option. I have even more reason now to continue advocating for women, children, and families, especially as I embark on my professional career life. I just graduated university, so my ultimate goal is to work with non-profit organizations, especially ones that are pro-life. Through my mom, I saw first-hand how much abortion mentally and emotionally tortures women, long after the procedure itself is over. All my life my mom had told me the story of how desperately she wanted to be a mom, prayed and cried endlessly, and had given up before I came along to surprise them. My mom loved me dearly and did absolutely everything she could for me, even when we faced many hard times together. While I obviously wished my other siblings would have lived for me to meet them, I think my mom put all she possibly could into being a mom not only because she loved me, but also to make up for the two she was not able to do the same for.
Chloe: After finding out about my mother’s abortion, I was devastated. I needed answers in regards to how many there were, their genders, why I was able to survive, etc. Many nights I sat in bed wondering if there were 3 boys, or 2 girls and a boy, or a girl and 2 boys, etc. I constantly wondered why my siblings were aborted and why I survived. I grieved, but it took very little time to realize I want to dedicate my life to fighting for the rights that were taken away from my siblings. I recognize that my survival was God’s way of telling me that I had vital work to do. Today, I am dedicated pro-life activist.
How did you feel after finding out?
Penelope: Knowing I wasn't inconvenient enough to end up the way my sister was, and the fact my mother felt she needed to do what she did out of vulnerability, pressure, and panic makes me feel guilt in that I was spared and that I couldn't help her choose life at the time.
Leah: I’ve always felt like someone was missing from my life. I used to not even talk about what happened and I struggled for a while quietly. I can honestly now say I’ve forgiven them both. I don’t think she understood what she was doing, manipulated by a culture that says you can’t have it all AND a child. As for my dad, I’ve had to forgive him for being perpetually knowingly ignorant. I will always wonder the course life would have taken had my sibling been afforded the gift of life, but I have faith I’ll meet him or her one day, and when that day comes, I want to be able to say I fought for the children who needed a voice and helped protect other families from the pain mine has gone through.
Sarah: I was surprised because it was all new information to me, but I was never upset with her. I understood the circumstances that caused her to feel like abortion was her only choice, and I saw how deeply she regretted and grieved the loss of that child. It took me a few years for it all to really sink in, though. I wasn’t aware until high school how much of a terrible widespread problem abortion was, which I came to know through pro-life news sources on social media. While I sometimes wonder how much different life would have been if both my aborted and miscarried siblings had lived, as my mom often wondered as well, I feel like all I can do is be as pro-life as possible to honor their memory and legacy until we can meet once this life is over.
Chloe: I felt heartbroken, and at times, I felt guilty. I struggled with depression before I found out, and after finding out about the abortion I constantly questioned my worthiness of being on this planet. I always felt (and still feel) like there’s an important part of my life missing. I understood my mother’s reasoning and how she felt she had no other option; her health was deteriorating, she was having marital problems, and she was pressured by everyone around her to abort. Despite the sorrow that revolves around that time, my mother and I have found a way to turn her pain into beauty and use it to help others in their times of vulnerability.
Do you feel like the pro-life movement takes post-abortive siblings into consideration or could pro-lifers do more?
Penelope: I understand the Silent No More Awareness campaign makes a point to recognize post-abortive siblings, however they aren't mentioned much. I don't mind personally, because it is the women who are considering abortion or are suffering post-abortive symptoms who need the primary amount of help. I'll be alright.
Leah: I don’t think post-abortive siblings are intentionally left out; I just think pregnancy resource centers mainly focus on post-abortive healing for the parents, and rightfully so. Those are the most common people seeking healing. I also know there are a few ministries which are specifically designed for siblings. I do, however, wish to see sibling post-abortive support groups offered at pregnancy resource centers or online so that we can connect, share our experiences and be there for each other. I also think a similar outreach for post-abortive grandparents would be helpful because I’m a firm believer in the fact abortion doesn’t just affect the woman or parents.
Sarah: Truthfully, I think the pro-life movement takes post-abortive siblings into consideration a fair amount. I personally never felt like I needed more representation in the movement, but it’s always nice to be able to connect with others like myself. One benefit to increasing the visibility of post-abortive siblings (which can be done by just spreading the term itself—I never heard of it before now actually!) is showing how abortion affects all people, not just mothers. The voice of post-abortive siblings prove that abortion is the complete destruction of the family itself.
Chloe: The pro-life movement acknowledges the stories of post-abortive siblings, however I do feel that parents are further acknowledged, which I also feel is how it should be. Although siblings are greatly impacted by abortion and are vital to the pro-life movement, I believe parents should continue to receive more attention because they are in greater need than we are. There are thousands of women out there who need our help in order to prevent more people from becoming post-abortive family members.
What advice would you give to a fellow post-abortive sibling?
Penelope: I am sorry for your loss, and the missing piece in the full family you have a right to; however, allow this pain to be an avenue where you learn how valuable life is, and to not make the same mistake your parents have. Never forget to forgive as well.
Leah: I wish I could say, “I don’t know what you’re going through,” but I do. I am so sorry, but know you are not alone in your journey. Please forgive those involved. They know not what they do. Use this horrible experience as your calling to fight for the innocent and the family unit. Share your story and don’t let it define you, but rather let it drive you to help others facing similar situations, and know I pray for your healing.
Sarah: It’s okay to grieve the loss of your sibling. The best thing you can do for them is to be as pro-life as you can possibly be—advocate for mothers, their vulnerable preborn children, and families. Go out and create a culture of life so that the sacrifice of your sibling(s) and millions of others will not be in vain.
Chloe: I am so sorry that you had to go through this. You never held them or talked to them, yet you feel like a piece is missing from your life. Forgive your parents and try to understand that they felt powerless at the time. Do not feel guilty because you are here; you matter. Use this story to help other women who are considering abortion; you have the power to make an incredible impact on the pro-life movement. A fun fact that helps me when I’m missing them a little extra: in some cases, cells/tissue are left behind and will attach to the next baby that resides in his/her mother’s womb. Your sibling(s) is/are with you.
What advice would you give to an abortion-vulnerable woman?
Penelope: You are so much stronger than your circumstances, and there are resources right in front of you; do not let abusive men or deceptive entities take away your child and your soul. You deserve a world much better than that, and I am so sorry we haven't made it even easier for you- because we should.
Leah: You may not see the future now but it’s bright. You can do anything, and anything includes loving your precious baby. Please know you’re not alone and there are pregnancy resource centers in your area with people waiting to help and love you through this time. If you need guidance, they can provide it. Anything you need, they can help. Don’t believe a culture that says you can’t, because you can. They say it’s “your body, your choice,” but as a post-abortive sibling I encourage you to think of your future, your family, and the everlasting effect this decision could have on not only you but your family. Allow us to be there for you and call a pregnancy resource center today.
Sarah: There is so much love and support just waiting to be poured out onto you and your child. Things may look hopeless, but you will never regret giving life to another person. You have so many choices available to you that will bring so much more life and joy to others. If you’re afraid to tell or talk to the people you know, call local churches (and organizations like Catholic Charities or Save the Storks) or research pro-life pregnancy resource centers online. These people love you and your child. They will give you the resources you need to find doctors, as well as financial and material support, or adoption services if you are interested. They will provide you with complete details on all of your options, including risks of abortion procedures, adoption, and parenting. They even provide loving counseling for you, whether you are just considering your options, have chosen to give your child to another family through adoption or are raising your child yourself, or even if you have already had an abortion and are seeking mental and emotional support/guidance. You are not ever alone. We love you.
Chloe: I know things look bleak and hopeless, and that abortion seems like your only option. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. There are thousands of people and pregnancy centers across the country who want to help you and your baby. You’re frightened and don’t know what to do, and they are more than ready to help you and your baby in every way possible. You are the furthest thing from alone, even though it might not feel like it. You are SO strong, and I have no doubt that you would be an amazing mother. In the words of Whitney Houston, there’s a little voice inside you, begging you not to throw love away. This can be such a beautiful ride, and there are thousands of people willing to guide you through it. If you don’t feel ready, you can put that precious little soul up for adoption, and give that baby to a family who wants nothing more than a child. Think about your future children. Think about the child inside of you. Think about you. There are other options and there are people who want nothing more than to help you. You and your baby are so loved, and are in my prayers.
If you are struggling to find healing after losing a sibling to abortion or wish to connect with others who have shared experiences, please direct message Human Defense Initiative on social media or text us at 628-777-3864 and you will be connected with someone to talk to today. You are not alone and we want to be there for you.
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*Some names in this article have been changed for the sake of privacy
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.